Don’t Forget About These 5 Tax Planning Strategies Before Year-End

November 2, 2021

With all the talk around the recent tax proposals, many have lost sight of common tax planning strategies that should not be forgotten this year.  Implementing one or more of the following strategies could help save on taxes:

1. Roth conversion to fill up 24% tax bracket

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowered tax rates on a temporary basis – rates are set to return to the higher levels starting in 2026. While the lower rates are still around, it could be beneficial to fill up the 24% tax bracket (income up to $164,925 for single filers and $329,850 for married filers) with a Roth conversion.  A married couple with this same level of income would have been well into the 33% bracket under old law!

2. Back door Roth IRA in 2021

Many individuals would love to be able to contribute to a Roth IRA but have too much income to do so.   These taxpayers can still make a Traditional IRA contribution, but due to their high income, it is likely non-deductible.  As long as the taxpayer has no other Traditional IRA assets, this non-deductible IRA contribution can be converted to Roth with little or no tax due.  This is a great way for higher-income taxpayers to build up tax-free Roth IRA assets.

3. Qualified charitable distribution

Now that required minimum distributions are back for the 2021 tax year; qualified charitable distributions are back in focus. A taxpayer who is age 70 ½ or older can give up to $100,000 from their retirement account directly to a qualified 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  If a taxpayer is subject to required minimum distributions, this qualified charitable distribution can go toward satisfying the required distribution amount.  This is a great planning idea for charitably inclined taxpayers – they can satisfy a required minimum distribution while keeping ordinary income off their return and help their favorite charity in the process.

4. Alternate years for charitable giving

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act essentially doubled the standard deduction.  For the 2021 tax year, a married couple filing joint will receive a standard deduction of $25,100.  Itemized deductions such as state taxes paid, mortgage interest, and charitable deductions may get some taxpayers just over this higher standard deduction.  One planning idea is to bunch two years’ worth of charitable gifts into one year to get further over the standard deduction that year.  Then the next year, no charitable giving is done, and the standard deduction is taken.  This should result in increased Schedule A Itemized Deductions over time, which will save on taxes.

5. Contribute to 529 plans

Many states provide tax deductions for contributions to their 529 plan.  For example, Illinois offers a state tax deduction for up to $10,000 for single filers and $20,000 for married filers, saving approximately $500 and $1,000 of Illinois tax, respectively.  Sending in a contribution before December 31, 2021, would help save on state-level taxes.  529 plans are great accounts, as they are triple tax-advantaged – contributions into the account are tax-deductible, the assets in the account grow tax-deferred, and as long as the assets are used for qualified education expenses, distributions are tax-free.

Implementing one or more of the above planning strategies before year-end could result in tax savings this year and into the future.